Mascom staff petition CEO

SHARE   |   Tuesday, 05 July 2016   |   By Ditiro Motlhabane
Mascom CEO, Jose Couceiro Mascom CEO, Jose Couceiro

The war between Mascom Wireless and staff took a new turn last week Thursday when staff petitioned Management, accusing them of a witch hunt against the chairman of Botswana Communication Workers Union (BOCOWU). BOCOWU chairman Joseph Serema – who is employed by the company – has been summoned for a disciplinary hearing next week in what other employees view as trumped up charges calculated to get rid of him because of his activism. The Patriot on Sunday is reliably informed that Serema's wrongdoing which landed him in trouble is that some time back he was given permission to visit a commercial bank in the city centre (Main Mall) but later passed through a nearby post office. In a petition dated 23 June 2016, employees request Chief Executive Officer Jose Couceiro to "call a general staff meeting to address the changes in our current labour landscape and to assure staff of his continued willingness to listen and engage on matters that concern staff".  The petitioners also request that HR should stop the (Serema) case with immediate effect. "We believe that the Joe Serema case is based on trivialities and is influenced by a negative relationship between a superior and their subordinate. It is our assertion that if there was substance to this case, it should have been brought forward soon after the incident," reads part of the petition.

Through the petition, addressed to Mascom Chief HR Officer Gape Sebonego, the petitioners say they have often asked for time off from work to run staff welfare and in the course of running those, they attended to others they would not have explicitly mentioned at the time of making the request. "These are ordinarily of negligible nature, requiring minimal time. We do not deem this as falsifying information to management. Should we have explained that we ran other errands?" the petitioners ask. They further express shock to learn that Serema is facing summary dismissal as a result of approval delays in concluding the leave application process and running an extra errand on the way back to work. Therefore, they insist that if that is the case, justice has to apply to all, not have selective justice. To corroborate suspicion of victimisation and a witch hunt the petitioners reveal that all of them have at some point or the other gone on leave without approval from their managers, with the leave application process completed long after they came back from leave. "Kindly confirm if a word from our managers that they would approve our leave application in our absence counts for anything," they said.

Responding to the petition, through an email to all staff, Sebonego said disciplinary proceedings are confidential by nature and therefore "we cannot discuss matters relating to any disciplinary proceedings in order to protect the rights of all to the parties involved in the proceedings. We wish assure you that this Procedure is not arbitrarily applied in order to victimize any member of Staff. The process is applied fairly, legally, morally and in a transparent manner to all staff. We further wish to remind Staff that each Mascom employee has signed an individual Employment Contract with the Company, therefore, each individual will be treated as an individual with regards to their conduct and service delivery during employment with the Company." On the request for a general staff meeting Sebonego said engagement has already commenced. He said the management’s approach on updating staff on the current labour issues, is to meet with each Division separately or, in some instances, combined, in order to allow for greater dialogue and interaction. So far engagement with Information Systems and Finance Divisions have been concluded and the plan is to have completed all division engagements during July, said Sebonego. "The CEO will call a staff meeting as he normally does, and this will be to update staff on the company performance and other key developments on a date to be communicated," he said.

Serema declined to discuss the pending disciplinary hearing, saying the issues are internal matters between him and his employer. He also refused to comment on the petition. Meanwhile BOFEPUSU, to whom BOCOWU is affiliated, is demanding a meeting with Mascom CEO Jose Vieira Couceiro, and have expressed unhappiness about his non-committal to a specific date for same to take place. Acknowledging receipt of the request for a meeting Couceiro had failed to indicate when he would be available, sparking an immediate response from BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari on Wednesday seeking such commitment. The Federation has also called for the sacking of Couceiro accusing him of presiding over ‘victimisation, persecution and discrimination of employees who have unionised at Mascom’. The call was contained in a strong-worded letter from Deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshegwa to the Chairman of Mascom Board of Directors last week. “Public servants whom we also represent cannot have their funds at BPOPF (majority shareholder at Mascom) being used to finance unethical trading and pay salaries of management who is hell bent on terrorising workers,” Motshegwa charged.

In other disputes BOCOWU is suing Mascom for refusing to collect subscription fees from employees in Band 5 on behalf of the union, arguing that they are part of management. Serema, in his position as the union chairman, has deposed the founding affidavit in the lawsuit. The two parties are also at loggerheads over a unilateral decision by management to present a 3.5 per cent inflationary adjustment for 2016/17 financial year.